Concert Review: Acoustic Alchemy locks in tight concert at Manchester Craftsmen's Guild

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Acoustic Alchemy nylon string guitarist Greg Carmichael mentioned in Wednesday’s Post-Gazette that his band was mixing a live album. If it sounds anything like Thursday’s early show at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Jazz Concert Hall it will be outstanding.

Simply put, it was one of the tightest concerts I’ve ever heard, at the Guild or anywhere else. With few wasted notes and moments, the band was locked in from the opening “Homecoming.” It’s pleasant, melodic music with plenty of drive and kick that got the audience revved up, most notably on the bluesy, polyrhythmic “One for Shorty.”

The band’s concept has always been the juxtaposition of acoustic guitar styles, with Mr. Carmichael playing a nylon string instrument primarily finger style and Miles Gilderdale, who once played electric rhythm guitar with the band and replaced Nick Webb after his 1998 death from pancreatic cancer, using a guitar pick on a steel string guitar. On numerous tunes, especially “Ariane,” it seemed as though the mood shifted with a change in the lead between the two guitarists — perhaps that’s intended. Mr. Gilderdale especially used effects with considerable verve, even aping Pat Metheny on “Clear Air for Miles.”

The rest of the ensemble was up to it as well, with keyboardist Fred White laying down several organ and piano solos, most notably on “Jamaica Heartbeat” and “Marrakesh”; and brothers Gary and Greg Grainger on bass and drums respectively driving things along.

The band saved the best for last, with Mr. Gilderdale switching back to his electric guitar for “Tuff Puzzle” and the Grainger brothers going back and forth at the end.

The only disappointment was the encore of the Caribbean-meets-Far East “Mr. Chow,” probably Acoustic Alchemy’s best known tune and Mr. Gilderdale leading on acoustic, because they didn’t stretch it out. There may have been some time constraints, given that the group had another show to do. And Mr. Gilderdale, in introducing the Grainger brothers, who are Baltimore natives, probably shouldn’t have made a reference to the Ravens, eliciting a number of boos and groans from the audience.

Rick Nowlin: or 412-263-3871.

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